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In Over Her Head

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In Over Her Head


Published August 1, 2007
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In Over Her Head is a coming of age story about a young composer who stumbles into a world of dazzling artistic misfits and becomes trapped in their schemes. It was inspired by the farces of Voltaire, Pynchon, and Rushdie, the speculative fiction of Atwood, and the surrealism of Murakami.

The debut of Penny Bell's's groundbreaking musical composition—featuring the use of mysterious extremely low frequency waves—takes a startling and tragic turn when several concert-goers die in their seats during the performance. The once-bright horizons of Penny's career collapse, and she retreats to a dank Soho basement apartment lit only by the glow of computer monitors and electronic synthesizer displays. There, using herself as a guinea pig, she sets out to unlock the secrets of her beautiful and deadly symphonies. But a series of strange coincidences intrude upon her solitary quest. Her apartment is ransacked. Her neighbor, the ethereal erotic performance artist Ulla Nova, disappears after her studio is broken into. And then Ulla's charming and damaged young choreographer appears, and sweeps Penny off to Europe to search for the diva, plunging Penny into a seedy and unfamiliar world of jet set artists and international intrigue.


Publisher Jeff Harrington
Year 2007
Pages 314
Language English
Book contributor Jeff Harrington
Collection opensource

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Reviewer: jeff harrington - - January 18, 2010
Subject: Publishers Weekly Review
As much art film as a book, this slow-to-unfold novel has as many long conversations (often accompanied by long walks) and deep thinking about the meanings of life and love and art as storyline and plot development. Penny Bell is a brilliant 17-year-old musician living in New York City and writing music that uses emotionally-manipulative Extra-Low Frequency sound waves when she simultaneously discovers that her neighbor, an aging dancer named Ula obsessed with immortality, took Penny's music for use in her own work, and that Ula's apartment was broken into. Then Ula takes off, so Penny and a dubious character named Alessandro fly to Paris to find her. Most of the characters -- themselves mostly artists of one sort of another -- are living breathing flesh, but what follows is a surreal, almost disconnected series of episodes where occasionally the plot advances but amid a lot of descriptive touring of Paris and Rome, long-winded talks, sprinkles of untranslated French, and a sinister German doctor named Zut whose speaks in a distractingly phonetic accent. There are gems scattered throughout, including a cathartic moment where Ula's "immortality" is erased. But overall the book has the feel of fitting tightly into a niche, like a black-and-white avant garde film exploring light and shadow as much as human nature. -- manuscript review by Publishers Weekly, an independent organization
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